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Wittgenstein's Nephew: A Novel (Vintage International) Paperback – October 13, 2009


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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage International
  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781400077564
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400077564
  • ASIN: 1400077567
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #565,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A "partly autobiographical novel" with the subtitle "A Friendship," Bernhard's ( Woodcutters , The Lime Works ) 1984 work delineates the unusual relationship between the narrator, a writer not unlike Bernhard, and the brilliant but mad nephew of the phil- osopher Wittgenstein. Both men are confined to beds in the same hospital, the narrator in the pulmonary ward and Paul Wittgenstein in the asylum. Both are plagued with fears and doubts about the terminal nature of life. Acquaintances beforehand, they reach out now and build a friendship based on mutual support and respect that somehow thrives in this bleak and hopeless environment. Bernhard's style relies on ponderous repetition of words and ideas, which may be more natural in the original German. When successful this technique has the effect of a musical composition that reiterates a theme in variations. More often, though, it palls and results in maddeningly convoluted sentences that tend to numb the mind.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The works of Austrian novelist/playwright Bernhard continue to be internationally recognized. This novel, originally published in 1982, documents the author's friendship with Paul Wittgenstein, nephew to Ludwig and a philosopher in his own right. The novel is part autobiography and part retrospective re-creation of the eccentric Paul's life and--as in numerous other works of Bernhard--an explanation of the artist's struggle to survive in a world gone insane. The novel is witty, biting, and very moving, all beautifully captured in the translation. Highly recommended for literature and philosophy collections.
- Ulrike S. Rettig, Wellesley Coll., Mass.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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If his aim was to convey his relentless neurosis, he certainly succeeded.
Mario Igrec
Like a weaver or jazz musician, Bernhard repeats the essence of his message in many ways, giving the reader a marvelous opportunity to see into the protagonist's mind.
Bonnie Brody
While the subject matter is autobiographical Bernhard's writing style and play with form lend the presentation a searching and dream-like solipsism.
Freelancer Frank

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Wesley H. Wilson on September 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
I am once again reading _Wittgenstein's Nephew,_ after having read it ten or so years ago. Now, years later, this slim book offers an even richer experience. I started it tonight and regret that I didn't begin it earlier in the day. It's short enough to be read in a rainy afternoon, yet its brevity belies writing that is simply astounding and straightforward in its honesty and beauty. (By "honesty," I don't mean the cesspool of lurid detail that many of today's writers wallow in and which I find totally repugnant. Bernhard had too much class for that.)
Truth be told, the reader has to like Bernhard's style to get far with him. Bernhard's rephrasing of mundane thoughts and incidents may seem tedious at first to the uninitiated, but he turns the same phrases over and over as if assessing their content and structure. Is it better to write the thought *this* way? That way? Both? Neither? All? How many writers do *that*!?
Bernhard had a genuine love of words (which I share), phrases, sentences and the way they all form an imposing BLOCK that fills the pages (no paragraph breaks). It doesn't seem to matter much that his topics are mundane: I sense he knew that, despite the adventures most of us have, a large part of life is spent alone with our thoughts. Who was it that said, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." Bernhard expands upon this bleak thought and comes up with art of very high order, indeed.
I have read all of Bernhard's work that has been translated into English, and I can recommend them all with 5 stars. I think this book (or perhaps _Concrete_) is the best starting point for those unfamiliar with this author. I especially love this book because the topic - friendship - is so touching and sensitively handled. Not a word seems wasted.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Brody TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
Thomas Bernhard is a wonderful wordsmith. He weaves his story in riffs like jazz motifs or the most beautiful of tapestries. In a tapestry, there may be repeat stitches but the colors and gauge change, the dynamic conspires to grow and become something else just as it is being created. Like a weaver or jazz musician, Bernhard repeats the essence of his message in many ways, giving the reader a marvelous opportunity to see into the protagonist's mind. He is a natural story teller.

This book is considered a novel but it is very autobiographical in nature. The novel opens up in 1967 in a Viennese hospital. It is about the author's friendship with the nephew of the great philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Ludwig's nephew's name is Paul and he is considered a madman, a 'lunatic' in his day. He is also considered a great lover of opera and music, perhaps a bit of a dandy at times.

The story starts out as the author is recuperating in a hospital that has two pavilions, one for pulmonary patients and one for psychiatric patients. The author is in the pulmonary wing. He has just had a huge tumor removed from his thoracic region and is expected to die. Paul Wittgenstein is in the psychiatric unit for one of his regular stays. He suffers from an unnamed ailment but his relatives find him a burden and suspect he is harmful to others so they have him committed. The author is no friend of psychiatry. He states "Psychiatrists are the real demons of our age, going about their business with impunity and constrained by neither law nor conscience."

Paul Wittgenstein was born to great wealth and prestige but used up all his money and now lives on the hand-outs of family and friends. He has a loyal wife who stands by him through thick and thin.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By John Hovig on September 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
"Wittgenstein's Nephew" is a reflection on friendship and loss, a remembrance of a dear friend, and a regret for a missed eulogy. It is written by Thomas Bernhard, about Paul Wittgenstein, who were good friends for over a decade. It ranks unquestionably among Berhnard's finest works. (The book was written in 1982. Bernhard was Austrian, 1931-1989, and met Wittgentstein (1924-1979) in 1967).
The book holds to no fixed plot, but is a series of discursive episodes about the author and his friend engaged in various episodes: meeting in a hospital, attending the opera, visiting a once-cosmopolitan friend now living in the remote rural lands of Austria, frequenting the same literary clubs and cafes, and many similar tales.
Every vignette is a jewel, and they are plenty, but few are about Paul directly, or reveal Thomas's feelings explicitly. Each time Bernhard begins talking directly about Paul, or his inner feelings, he diverts attention quickly to another story. His heart is so obviously broken he cannot bear to talk about his friend, but only their good times together. Still, it is abundantly clear from his story-telling, Thomas loves Paul like a brother, truly a "best friend."
Paul was a brilliant man, like his famous uncle Ludwig, the philosopher, and musically talented, like another Paul Wittgenstein (Ludwig's brother, the pianist) but also emotionally unstable, and financially irresponsible. After a late-life divorce, in his usual ill health, Bernhard describes Paul crying, in his dark and empty apartment, in rough condition despite its prime city location, but tells us he left Paul alone in his misery, to go sit in the park. Thomas cannot face his emotions at all. He cannot express himself this way, and to this day it eats him up inside.
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